Recently I came across a woman I often see sitting on the side of the street, huddled up, wrapped in a shawl that somewhat protected her from the cold weather. She looked as if she was in another world as people passed her coming and going. Nobody seemed to notice her. She needed someone to stop and say, “Hello. How can I help you?”
I asked myself some of the same questions we may all have. What happened to her? How did she come to be homeless? Does she have family? This woman, and thousands more who are homeless, are a part of the harsh reality of life that we seem to look away from and ignore. Basically, taking no action.
While I am uplifted by the people with kind and generous hearts who reach out to others, I also encounter moments of great frustration when I see people like this unfortunate woman and many like her who go unnoticed and invisible. Their lives have unraveled beyond control, and it frustrates me to find it beyond my control to help them all. However, it was grace that day to know that a smile, a short talk, and a meal uplifted her in that moment.
At times, too, we find ourselves uncomfortable, frustrated in all that may be going on in our lives and in the world. Our life may feel in disarray as if one thing after another seems to be falling apart. But it may be in these moments of frustration that we can take a step back and listen to the Holy Spirit. Maybe our attempts to focus too much on our own lives could be blinding us from letting the Holy Spirit guide us instead of blocking God—we need to learn to rely upon him.
As we embark on our Lenten journey, we must be attentive to the grace of offering ourselves in humility. We must let go and hand our lives over to God who inspires the goodness that we do. Our positive actions are an outcome of the Holy Spirit guiding. We must also be sure to proceed with the purity of intention. “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, (Mt 6:1-6).”
When we permit ourselves to do this, we allow ourselves to be truly guided by God and focus on the good that God is doing in our lives and the lives of others. Don’t let the frustration in your life prevent you from embracing the sacredness of God’s presence all around you.
During your Lenten journey, do not be afraid of the messiness of life in and around us. I invite you to reach out to others, people you ordinarily might never reach out to—a man or woman experiencing homelessness, an immigrant, or someone close to you who you have failed to see or get close to. A smile will let them know you actually see them and that they are not invisible. Getting close enough to care and encounter them will let them know God loves both of you.
- In this Lenten journey, who is out there that God is wanting you to encounter? How will you respond?
- How does encounter and care for our neighbor play an essential role in our work for justice?
- How can you grow in humility and grace in this Lenten season?
Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., a sister with the Missionaries of Jesus, is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of different ministries and services in the Rio Grande Valley through emergency assistance, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, clinical counseling, pregnancy care, food programs, and humanitarian relief to immigrants.